It’s not surprising in this digital age that Claudia Albanese and Jeff Loonan met online. “We were both using Match.com, and we knew right away that we were on to something good,” Jeff says. Claudia and Jeff share the same birthday on March 29, which “had to be significant.” They both grew up in New Jersey—Claudia in Leonia, Jeff in Martinsville. After six months of dating, Claudia moved in to Jeff’s Jersey City apartment. Every morning, they would stop at their favorite neighborhood bagel shop, Wonder Bagel. “I had to figure out a way to surprise her,” says Jeff. “I figured she’d be really surprised on her birthday at 6 a.m. when she was still in her pjs.”
As Claudia waited at the table, hungry and tired, their favorite server took the ring box, wrapped it in wax paper, like a bagel, and Jeff placed it in the bag. Jeff walked over to Claudia and told her that even at this early hour, their mutual birthday was already an amazing day. Half asleep, Claudia acknowledged Jeff, as she reached for the bagel in the bag. She began unwrapping it and realized it wasn’t a bagel at all. “Now every time we go to Wonder Bagel,” says Claudia, “we are reminded of that wonderful day.”
A few weeks after their engagement, the couple checked out the Madison Hotel in Convent Station. “It was the first and only place we visited,” says Claudia, 29, who works for a special-education company; Jeff, 32, is a sales manager at a medical-device firm. “Our jaws dropped,” says Claudia. “We knew this was it.” On April 19, 2014, they were married in the hotel’s conservatory. Dressed in a strapless gown and carrying a bouquet of peekaboo and coral Amsterdam roses, Claudia walked down the aisle decorated with coral hydrangea, open Tibet roses and white orchids. The bridesmaids wore coral gowns and carried coral Amsterdam and Tibet roses. Jeff and his groomsmen each wore a white rose wrapped in raffia. Jeff also carried his father’s cherished pocket watch.
The reception was held in the hotel’s main ballroom, where Claudia danced so much that she had to change into a pair of turquoise Converse sneakers with her new name stitched along the side, a present from Jeff. At one point, Jeff got on stage and serenaded Claudia with a rendition of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.”
After a honeymoon in Venice and Rome in Italy, and Santorini in Greece, the couple is back home in Baltimore.